Five Facts You Didn’t Know About Starting a Car Wash

Jan 7th 2020

Five Facts You Didn’t Know About Starting a Car Wash

As many sources will tell you, the car wash industry is in the midst of exciting growth. With more cars on the road than ever before, the car wash market is experiencing unprecedented volume. Long story short, it’s a great time to think about starting a car wash business of your own!

Even with all the new business, the industry is seeing, no car wash business is a guaranteed success. NS Wash proudly supplies and services wash businesses of all sizes, from mom-and-pop operations to transit and fleet wash systems. In this blog, we’ll be going over 5 key insights into starting a car wash business. Let’s get started!

Starting a Car Wash Means Location, Location, Location

It can’t be overstated: finding a convenient and traffic-friendly location is key to car wash success. Scout your target area extensively, and keep an eye out for local competition and what kind of business volume you want to see when starting a car wash business. For example, you wouldn’t want to open a multi-lane tunnel wash in a small rural town where you might not necessarily see a high volume of business. Similarly, starting a new business in an area near a long-established and popular business could spell out disastrous results for your new car wash.

When scouting your area, be mindful of major thoroughfares, traffic centers and shopping plazas, as well as on- and off-ramps. While not always ideal, a location near highway access can promise consistent business from commuters and locals as well.

Once you’ve found a target area, your next step in starting a car wash will be finding a suitable commercial site. We recommend scouting locations both in-person and online where you can use commercial real estate sites like LoopNet to get a sense for the larger market, including price range, average square footage, and cost of utilities. A car wash comes with a substantial resource footprint to maintain, so be sure to research utility costs in your prospective area or consider making your car wash an eco-friendly one.

Plan & Prepare

While location scouting helps you determine what you need to start a car wash, your business plan should take into account the circumstances “on the ground” in your area, i.e. comparing your projected water and power demands against local utility costs. Do some research and maybe seek out some professional advice when putting together your business plan, especially if this is your first time starting a car wash business.

Preparing a strong business plan, with extensive details and well-researched projections for costs/benefits, will make your case stronger in the eyes of potential investors. Additionally, a comprehensive plan helps you stay organized in the sometimes-hectic process of starting a car wash.

Additionally, starting a car wash involves quite a bit of paperwork. Permits and licenses need to be in order before you get to work, so budget your time and funds to include the turnaround time on licenses, and to pay for whatever legal fees you might accrue during the process. You’ll also need to consider insurance and, of course, tax rates in the area. These are all expenses you’ll need to have incorporated into your budget going forward!

Getting Operational

How you plan to operate your car wash should be established early. Do you plan to incorporate it? And if so, under what model? Afford yourself the time and resources to do your research here as well. Your business plan should comprehensively outline your operations plans, too, especially if you are attempting to join a larger franchise or expand from a small business into an incorporated entity, or similar restructuring. Those with more experience starting a car wash business will naturally have a bit more to go off, so we encourage first-timers to do their research and be uncompromising as they attempt to “tick all the boxes” of a strong business and operations plan.

Identify Problems

This is perhaps the best piece of advice we can give folks interested in starting a car wash business. Once you have your location, and have your financing and operations plans in place, start taking stock of potential problems or troubleshooting areas most likely to come up. Retail car wash equipment is mechanically complex; it requires consistent maintenance and even the most beautifully engineered systems have the potential to unexpectedly break down. If you anticipate seasonal changes in customer base, or traffic bottlenecks around your business that make it unappealing to local customers, or anything else that might impede the smooth running of your business, best to plan for it.

In the first few months after starting your car wash, you will get a clearer picture of your business’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be disheartened by these initial stumbling blocks, this is crucial new data that you can use to improve your business’ performance, and, ultimately, establish yourself in the community as a reliable business.

Scope the Competition

Finally, we recommend taking a look at the other car washes in your area. An already-established wash in your area can offer several insights for starting a car wash business of your own. How much business do they see over a quarter, and how is their market visibility? Do they market to local customers online, through flyers, on TV and radio? How wide is their customer base geographically? Are they a simple one-stall automatic, or a multi-tunnel branch of a large chain?

Starting a new car wash also affords owners the chance to use state-of-the-art, more sustainable equipment that your competitors may not have. If your competitors can’t afford to update their operations to match newer and more efficient wash systems, that could help you with marketing and allow you a chance to connect with customers and make the case for your new business.

While finding ways to get on equal footing with established competitors can be important, we recommend focusing primarily on yourself. The grass is always greener, even in business, and energy spent focusing on someone else’s business is energy not spent improving your own.

Make sure you’re starting your car wash business off on the right foot -- contactNS Corporation today to find the latest, cutting-edge technology and retail car wash parts on the market for your new business.